A question for the ages

“Isn’t Ann Aguirre more female-focused Science Fiction than SFR?”

SFR = sci-fi romance, in case you didn’t know.

That question comes from a comment in this blog post. It’s from an article talking about SFR covers. My Wanderlust cover is compared to a Lois McMaster Bujold one (which is pretty cool). It’s amazing that a cover done seventeen years ago could have elements in common with one designed recently.

But you know what’s funny? From one end of the spectrum, I get people telling me I don’t write “real” science fiction. It’s all girlie, full of relationships and such. It should come with a warning label! “Run away, herein lies girl cooties and coitus!” This quote comes from a review of Grimspace, found here:

Grimspace by Ann Aguirre is one of those novels that you thoroughly enjoy reading. You wouldn’t tell serious fans of speculative fiction that you did, but you would spend an entire evening devouring it anyway.

I’ve bolded the significant bit. It’s a nice review and it seems for that reader, my books qualify as a guilty pleasure. But it amuses me to be dismissed from both sides of the spectrum. I don’t write real science fiction. But apparently I don’t write real romance either. I fall into this nebulous gray space, where my science fiction is soft, squishy and romantic, but maybe… not a romance, according to some.

Is Grimspace just female-centric science fiction? Or is it nothing more than a romance in space (as real spec fic fans allege)? I’m going to go out on a limb and say it depends on your frame of reference.

I know what I think — and what I intended — but I’d like to ask those who read the book. What is Grimspace? Did it have a “real” romance? Is it “real” SF? Could it, ever, in any known universe, be …both?

From the mailbag

I thought I’d pull out a few questions I’ve received and answer them here. If they’re funny enough, I add questions to my FAQ permanently and send the person who asked a prize. These questions, however, are so awesome (or freaky) that I felt they deserved a blog post. They’re all Grimspace related, so maybe other readers were secretly wondering the same thing but didn’t have the chutzpah to inquire.

And now, onward!

Elise asks:

Can Vel have sex in human form? Has he ever? For that matter, what’s his stuff like in his natural form?

I cannot tell you how I laughed to receive these questions. I have been told by another reader that I managed to make Vel appealing, mysterious, and yes, even erotic, but this is the first time anyone has ever asked about his package. But here we go.

Yes, Vel can have sex in human form, but it’s more mimicry than anything pleasurable for him. I mean, he’s wearing a human suit, basically. Imagine having sex while wearing a condom all over your body that’s several inches thick. Just because it’s possible, that doesn’t mean he’ll enjoy it.

And yes, Vel has had sex in human form. I’ll say this much: you met one of Vel’s former lovers briefly in Grimspace. I will not tell you more, however, because it would spoil a free short story that will be forthcoming, probably in December.

Finally (and I can’t believe anyone wants to know this), I did research praying mantis sexual organs when I was writing this book. Vel has an adapted system, similar but not identical to the praying mantis. That is to say, he has a series of barbs and slits designed to interlock with a female of his species for the exchange of genetic material. It’s a more functional arrangement than humans have. The barbs offer no sensation whatsoever; they’re simply present to allow the Ithtorians to hook together long enough to do what’s needed. The slits, however, do offer some pleasurable sensations, which another species can act upon. Sex-for-pleasure is a foreign concept to his people, but he’s been in exile a long time.

Adam asks:

Do you think Jax will ever do it with Dina? If March were eaten by aliens, maybe. Because that would be hot.

No. Sorry. Even if March is eaten by aliens, it’s not going to happen. Dina isn’t attracted to Jax that way.

Melanie asks:

I liked the book, but I don’t understand how you can say they proved there’s no such thing as the soul, yet people still have religion, all that Mary worship stuff. How does that even make sense?

To my mind, the two are not mutually exclusive. Think of all the things science has “proven”, evolution, for instance. How many sects are there today that deny it because it goes against their theology? Science and religion have always been at odds in that way, a question of evidence versus faith. Why wouldn’t that continue to be so?

Well, that’s all for today! I hope y’all found this edifying. If you have a question, feel free to email it to me. If I pick yours for a blog post or the FAQ you’ll win a prize, just like Adam, Elise, and Melanie.

An interview with Jeri Smith-Ready (And a Wicked Game giveaway!)

The Squee

First, let me state: Jeri is a good friend of mine. However, I don’t squee about books that aren’t squee-worthy. I might tell you she’s a nice person, I’m excited to present this interview, I love her hair, or that I loved rooming with her in Pittsburgh. I might tell you any number of nice things, but if I didn’t love Wicked Game, there would be no squeeing.

Wicked Game

The best part about being an author is that I get to read books early that I would line up to buy. Wicked Game is one of those.

Jeri reinvents vampire mythos and she manages to make them grim, scary as hell, yet still sexy. Ciara and Shane are a fantastic couple with serious conflict. I loved the way the relationship develops; it felt natural to me. And the plot? Amazingly fresh.

As if that’s not enough, Wicked Game has some of the finest writing and characterization it’s been my privilege to read, ever. No spoilers, but certain scenes gave me chills. I just can’t tell you how much I love this book. But don’t take my word for it; Kresley Cole and Rachel Caine love it too. Now check out this blurb:

Recovering con artist Ciara Griffin is trying to live the straight life, even if it means finding a (shudder!) real job. She takes an internship at a local radio station, whose late-night time-warp format features 1940s blues, ’60s psychedelia, ’80s goth, and more, all with an uncannily authentic flair. Ciara soon discovers just how the DJs maintain their cred: they’re vampires, stuck forever in the eras in which they were turned.

Ciara’s first instinct, as always, is to cut and run. But communications giant Skywave wants to buy WVMP and turn it into just another hit-playing clone. Without the station — and the link it provides to their original Life Times — the vampires would “fade,” becoming little more than mindless ghosts of the past. Suddenly a routine corporate takeover is a matter of life and undeath.

To boost ratings and save the lives of her strange new friends, Ciara rebrands the station as “WVMP, the Lifeblood of Rock ‘n’ Roll.” In the ultimate con, she hides the DJs’ vampire nature in plain sight, disguising the bloody truth as a marketing gimmick. WVMP becomes the hottest thing around — next to Ciara’s complicated affair with grunge vamp Shane McAllister. But the “gimmick” enrages a posse of ancient and powerful vampires who aren’t so eager to be brought into the light. Soon the stakes are higher — and the perils graver — than any con game Ciara’s ever played….

The Interview

What book have you read the most? How come?
Alice in Wonderland. There was something about the way it made me feel as a kid—that ANYTHING could happen, and you’d never know what would be around the next corner. I wished so hard for my very own rabbit hole.


What’s your favorite drink, alcoholic or otherwise?

Ginger beer, the hotter the better. I like food that hurts, probably because of the endorphin rush.

What was your favorite book as a kid?
DOGSBODY by Diana Wynne Jones. It’s about the Dog Star Sirius who is punished by the gods (I can’t remember why) by being forced to come to earth and live the life of a stray dog. It combined my love of animals with my passions for astronomy and mythology. Because of that book, Sirius became my favorite star forever (not to mention my eventual choice in satellite radio).

Who do you think is the coolest writer who ever lived? (This can be anyone, living or dead. Of course you have to tell us why. You don’t need to have personal experience of this person.)
Neil Gaiman. Not only is his work amazing on so many levels, he’s an incredibly nice and funny person, and so generous with his time and self. Back in the days when he was merely Big and not OMG MF’ing ROCK STAR, I stood in line for ninety minutes to get a book signed by him. It moved so slowly because he spoke with each reader for at least five minutes. Even now at signings he’ll stay behind long after everyone else to make sure all the readers get to speak with him.

If you could transform into any animal, what would it be? Why that?
I think a dolphin would be tons of fun. Swim around and eat fish all day, but still be smart enough to appreciate life. And hey, sharks are afraid of them. You can’t beat that.

Your rabid fans have proclaimed you the best writer in the world. Defend your title!
The words I hear most often to describe my work are “original” and “unique.” This is flattering, but sometimes it worries me, because conventional wisdom says most people gravitate toward the familiar and aren’t really looking for something different.

But readers should buck the conventional wisdom. Prove the experts wrong! Besides, every mega-author was once original and unique. You can’t stand out and become an OMG MF’ing ROCK STAR by writing the same stuff as everyone else.

What’s one mistake you see in books that drives you nuts? (This can be grammatical, research errors, whatever skeeves your gentle heart.)
It really bugs me when a vampire bites someone in the carotid artery. No. That’d be like drinking from a fire hose. The blood would usually end up on the ceiling and all over the walls, but let’s say, just for yuks, that it actually got into the vampire’s mouth. It would totally come out his nose. Ooh…blood-snarfing—sexaaaay!

Pie or cake?
No contest: Pie! Cake, for the most part, is not worth the calories. Too dry. I like my sweets rich and moist. That being said, if someone wants to send me cake, I wouldn’t turn it down. Though I might x-ray it first.

Pirate or ninjas?
Ninjas are so freaking cool!! They’ve got stealth, balance, strength–they’re like human cats.

Could there be pirate ninjas? Or ninja pirates? Hmm, probably not. I think there are basic philosophical and tactical barriers between the two camps.

Who is your imaginary celebrity boyfriend?
Seth Green. He was at New York Comic Con a few weeks ago, as was I. I had this nutty fantasy he would show up at my book signing saying, “I read about your book in Publisher’s Weekly. Vampires DJs—awesome.” Alas, he did not.

What’s your favorite book, among those you’ve written?
WICKED GAME

That one? Really? How come?
It made me so happy to write it. I’d be in the car listening to music, and a song would come on that resonated with one of the characters or a part of the story. It was so much fun to write and to think about even when I wasn’t actually working on the manuscript.

On the opposite end of the happiness spectrum, VOICE OF CROW is my other favorite novel, because it was the Book That Almost Killed Me. It was my first attempt at multiple POVs, and it drove me crazy trying to balance the “screen time” among all the characters. The rewrite was hellish, but it ultimately turned out really well (I think). So VOICE OF CROW is like that troublesome kid who earns a special kind of love.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with readers?
For more about Wicked Game, including the entire first chapter, check out www.jerismithready.com/wicked-game. To visit the DJs and listen to a sample of their shows, go to www.wvmpradio.com. Jeri and her heroine Ciara can also be found on MySpace, though mysteriously never at the same time (www.myspace.com/jerismithready and www.myspace.com/ciarawvmp).

You can win a copy of this awesome book for commenting. Ask Jeri some questions or comment on her work. You don’t want to miss this!

Deets, please?

I just saw your MySpace — what’s this about an urban fantasy/paranormal series?! I thought you were doing contemporaries as Annie Dean and Sci-Fi as Ann Aguirre?

I answered via email, and then it occurred to me that other readers might be curious as well. So here’s the scoop.

I write hot, quirky contemps as Annie Dean. They may include paranormal elements like the novella I have coming out in a Liquid Silver anthology alongside Dionne Galace and Bonnie Dee. But these books will be more sexually explicit, and the love story is pretty much the whole impetus of the plot.

As Ann Aguirre, I write dark, edgy stories. They might have sex / sexual content, but it won’t be graphic, and the gettin’ down scene count won’t be as high. These titles focus on action and ass-kicking. The relationship arc will still be present, but it won’t comprise the whole book.

Like I’ve said before, I stomp all over genre boundaries, especially in my Ann Aguirre titles. The Touch series is another idea that defies easy pigeonholing. I’d call it urban fantasy myself, but my agent intends to shop it as paranormal mystery. That’s cool; it has some elements in common with Charlaine Harris’s Grave series.

My series features a cool heroine with a limited power, doing the best she can not to be killed by all the Very Bad Things out there. And there are three possible love interests — the romance arc will develop slowly (but as always) by the end of book six, I will deliver a happy ending. I also intend to listen to reader feedback and see which hero readers like best. Talk about revolutionary!

Anyway, here’s some more information.

Corine Solomon isn’t looking for adventure. She’s happy with her junky little pawnshop, happy living as an expat where nobody knows who she is or what she can do. Nobody brings her soiled mittens from missing children or tiny earrings from dead babies anymore. She wants to forget the gift she never asked for and to stop thinking about the terrible night that changed her life forever. But things never go the way she wants them to and she can’t escape the man with the devil’s own luck. Chance doesn’t intend to let her go, and what’s more, he needs her for the first time in his life. If they can survive, things just might be different this time…

The first chapter is available here. Proposed titles follow:

GOOD TOUCH
TOUCH AND GO
DON’T TOUCH
THE MIDAS TOUCH
TOUCH WOOD
KEEP IN TOUCH

Possible heroes:

Chance
Corine’s ex. He’s half-Korean, half-who knows? His mother isn’t talking, but he has the devil’s own luck. When he turns his gift to a situation, he can nearly always swing it in his favor. Coincidences become astonishingly fortuitous. He’s slim and well-groomed, urbane: think Russell Wong. He’s always been completely cool and in control, but after Corine left him, that facade started to crack. Who knows what passions lurk beneath his smooth exterior?

Jesse
Latino cowboy type. He’s a cop, and oh, did I mention he’s long, tall and gorgeous? Deep amber brown eyes, tan skin, sun-streaked hair. He’s also an empath, so he knows what a woman wants.

There’s also a darkhorse that I won’t talk about here. Sound like fun? But don’t worry; this series doesn’t suffer from a lack of strong female secondary characters, and every male Corine meets doesn’t immediately want to shag her. Here’s a little excerpt to seal the deal.

Maybe it was cruel, but as my final act in preparing for bed, I touched up the frangipani on my throat.

I found him sitting on the edge of my bed, wearing striped boxers, a white t-shirt, and yes, his socks. The sight made me smile, though not as much as seeing him in my boudoir. What a wonderful word. My room definitely rose to the challenge, done in rose, lavender, and handmade lace. It bordered on brothel burlesque, especially with the balcony overlooking the street where I might show my bosoms to prospective clients.

“All set?”

Nodding, I threw some clothes in a bag while fighting off the memory of other occasions where I’d done exactly that. Chance told me we were leaving and I began to pack, no questions asked. Right up until the last, I would have followed him through fire. In the end, I did that too — and that was why I had to leave him.

Is that love? It seems like a pale word, too easily tossed about by people who don’t know the meaning of it, who twist it for their own ends. I’m afraid of it now, right up there with clowns, close spaces and open flames. On our second date, I had a panic attack when Chance ordered Cherries Jubilee. After that, I felt sure I’d never see him again.

Shows what I know.

As I came around the bed, he shivered visibly. Oh, I knew he was scent-sensitive. More than most people, an aroma carries him back in time, makes him relive the associated memories, feel the emotion of that moment. The way it affects him, I’d call it a weakness, but how could I pass up the opportunity to torment him a little? How heady that I still have the power; I wouldn’t have guessed that he was the steadfast sort.

I mean, just look at him. I noticed the glances we attracted when we were together. Someone generous would call me an endomorph, but I’m well-aware I’m round and squat, not sleek and long-limbed like Chance. If I try to wear crop pants, I grow cankles, and there’s always a bit of kitsch about me, no matter how hard I try.

In the last year and a half, I gave up on elegance and worked on developing my own style. It generally involves flowered hats, gypsy skirts that show off my rather cute feet and peasant blouses. Luckily these things are readily available here.

He inhaled deeply as I got in bed, his eyes fixed on the decolletage of my undeniably demure gown. Swear I felt the heat of his look tracing the satin trim along my breasts. “You grew a mean streak, Corine.”

I recognized his tone. The perfume had been a bad idea, because we were both remembering the last time we’d been together. Christ, the sex was good that night. Looking at his mouth, I began to forget all the reasons why I shouldn’t get naked and roll around with him. Determined not to give in, I lay down and pulled the sheet up to my chin.

As if he knew, Chance touched my hair where it spread on the pillow beside him. “Red looks good on you.”

“Thanks.”

I’d never been a redhead while we were together, and for him, my changing hair acted as a quiet kink. He said it was like making love to a different woman every time. And why was I thinking about that now? Rolling onto my side, I killed the lamp and the room gained the soft luminance of distant streetlights. City noises came to us, cars and too-loud conversation.

“Giving me your back?”

“I’m not giving you anything,” I said, glancing over my shoulder. Mistake. In the half light, he looked as sad as I’ve ever seen him.

“Not anymore,” he agreed softly.

“Christ. What do you want from me?”

Propped up against the headboard, he smiled then and I saw the silver glimmer of his coin, rolling along his knuckles. “Only what I always wanted. Everything.”

Ideally, I’ll be writing two series simultaneously. At least, that’s the plan. Good thing I’m fast, right? I hope that cleared things up about what I write, as whom, and what’s coming down the pike.

PS – the first book has zombies in it. What more could you ask, really?

You got questions? I got answers.

Two more questions rolled in yesterday, and because I’m working on Grimspace edits, I love not having to think of a blog topic. So I’m making it official: this is ASK ANNIE week. Whatever you’ve wanted to know, email me it to me at [email protected]

“This might seem dumb, but what do you prefer people to call you? I never know if I should use Ann, Annie, or what.”

That’s a good one, not dumb at all. To be perfectly honest, nobody but Linnea Sinclair has ever called me Annie. She started doing it years ago as an affectionate thing, so when it came time for me to pick a pseudonym, that was an obvious choice for the first name. I needed something simple and something I could remember easily.

But for the most part, people don’t call me Annie in real life. Except Linnea, my friends call me Ann. So that’s fine. But it doesn’t bother me if you call me Annie either. I’m used to it now.

Making matters more complicated, family and close friends here in Mexico call me Anita (Ah-nee-tah). It’s an endearment, as folks here often put “ita” or “ito” on a word or name. For example, my mother in law calls my niece “mamita.” The name Ann is Anglo, and before I became Anita, people called me Ana (Ah-nah) because Ann just isn’t a name they’re used to.

In conclusion, I will answer to Ann, Annie, Anita, or Ana. Ann is fine, though, as that’s my name. People are always saying, “Oh, I didn’t know you write as Ann Aguirre!” Well, that’s my name, actually.

Final thought — if in doubt, call me Ann. If you call me Anita, you’d better know when my birthday is and pony up a present ‘cos that’s for people who are close to me. Annie falls somewhere in between.

I’ll answer another question tomorrow, and boy, is it a good one!

Why should I try some? Are you sure it’s good?

Since I asked for questions, I’m actually starting to get some. Most of them I’ve put on the FAQ that Deena is putting together. The rest I’ll answer on here when I have time and inclination. Anyway, someone asked “Why do you call your blog ‘Try some, it’s good'”?

A long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away… I used to be really reluctant to try new things. What if I don’t like it? If it looks gross or scary or whatever, you wouldn’t catch me taking the risk, no sir.

Well, then someone persuaded me to give mushroom saag a try. If you’ve never seen it, here’s a picture to give you an idea. It looks pretty gross. I ordered it at a restaurant in Indianapolis called India Palace, and when it arrived I almost chickened out. I mean look at it. It’s all green and gloppy. It looks like something you scrape out of a badly maintained pool.

But I remembered my promise, so I tried a bite. To my amazement I loved it. And then I felt like a superficial jackass. Because for all my talk about not judging by appearances, I certainly did that to mushroom saag. Maybe I’d even discriminated against other ugly foods over the years.

So the blog title is a reminder to myself. If we stay in our comfort zones, sure, we won’t be exposed to things we don’t like (or think we don’t like) but we’ll never grow as human beings either. I don’t want to stagnate in my tastes, whether it’s books, food, music, films, or whatever. I want to keep expanding my horizons, even when it surprises me. Sometimes it does.

Ever heard someone say, “I didn’t think I’d like that, but…”? That’s a great feeling, realizing you’re still open-minded enough to add something unexpected to your repertoire of favorites. For instance, I just added a band to my list. Ever heard of The Enemy? Take a listen. Pretty nice, huh?

And that’s why I invite you to “try some, it’s good.”